What Does Success Mean to You? Here’s How to Find Your Answer

What does success mean to you?

If your name’s Collins, your answer is “the achievement of something that you have been trying to do.” Or if you’re Merriam-Webster, it’s a “favorable or desired outcome.”

But what if you’re not a strictly-by-the-book type of person?

In that case, here are some core principles to consider for coming up with your own definition of success that you can live with.

Arrows in target

Success is hitting your predefined target.

To use Warren Buffett’s analogy, success is not shooting an arrow into a blank canvas and then carefully drawing a bullseye around it.

A bullseye-drawer learns nothing from their errant attempts. Worse yet, they delude themselves into believing they can’t miss.

A bullseye-targeter learns from their mistakes, calibrates, and hones in. Or they learn that a particular bullseye is too tough to hit and pivot toward aiming for another. As comedian W.C. Fields is attributed with saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”

Matsutake pine mushrooms

Success is finding matsutake mushrooms.

If you seek success in well-known and easy-to-access locations, you’re in for a tussle with a lot of people to get your hands on some scraps. So it may be more fruitful to venture off the path and into the woods to forage for your own patch.

Then, once you get your hands on a little success, look around. Odds are you’ll find even more in that area.

Your life stock chart

Success is investing in winners.

Because of the magic of compounding, the sooner you get in the game, the better. Diversify early on to minimize risk, gain experience, and broadly scour the market.

Then steadily reallocate. Overcome your sunk cost biases to cut ties with underperformers and concentrate on your winners. Because, unlike on Wall Street, past performance is an indicator of future success.

There will always be bigger winners out there. But perpetually chasing after maximum profit will stress you out. And change is heavily taxing. So when you find a winner you have high conviction in, concentrate on it, commit for the long run, and ride it.

Cart stock image

Success is moving your cart.

Your life, business, or whatever you seek success for is a cart being pulled by a drove of donkeys. Each animal represents a division in your business or a component of your life (health, relationships, career, etcetera).

If you direct one donkey toward a carrot in the east, another toward a carrot in the west, and put no carrots in front of others, your cart will go nowhere fast.

Better to bunch your carrots together, even if you’re not sure of your direction.

Playing music

Success is putting on the best performance you can.

Tastes differ, so no matter what you’re doing, it will sound horrible to some. But it’ll be beautiful music to others’ ears.

It’s up to you to find the right feedback. Turn your ear that way and use it to push yourself to perform the best you can given your circumstances.

Since you have no objective scoreboard (or Billboard), the best you can do to measure your progress is to compare your current performance to your past. So periodically record and review. This preserves your records and prevents tone-deaf delusion.

Having fun with friends

Success is having fun.

If you take your pursuit too seriously, you may get there eventually but will miss out on enjoying it along the way.

And then what?

So whatever success means to you, find as many milestones and inch-pebbles as you can to celebrate. And find a jolly crew of people to share the journey with.


Here’s to your success!

Bringing everything together, I suppose this is my answer to “What does success mean to you?”:

Investing in the right cart, hopping on, and having fun putting on an ever-improving performance shooting my bow and arrow at mushrooms.

What about you?

However you decide to define success, I wish you the best.

And if you’re still uncertain, here are some more thought-provoking ideas:

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